Recovering resources to benefit the Mid-Coast Community
Resource Recovery Australia (RRA) is a national social enterprise, founded in Tuncurry, that has been running for over 29 years. They create jobs for people experiencing barriers to employment and keep waste out of landfill at the same time.
At the Tuncurry Waste Management Centre, RRA runs an Automated Depot, which is an official return point for Return and Earn. Automated Depots are recycling businesses where you can drop off bulk volumes of drink containers for counting in an automated machine for a refund of 10 cents per container. It’s a great option for avid container collectors and community groups seeking to raise funds through the scheme. The Tuncurry centre is also an important community asset for locals to engage in recycling and care for the environment, offering a reuse shop, a community recycling centre, communal gardens, a green bikes program, a Men’s shed and much more in partnership with Mid-Coast Council.
“It’s all working towards the same goal – to reduce, reuse, recycle – and having all these great programs in the same facility really creates an engaging community hub,” says Matt Curtis, the General Manager of RRA.
When Return and Earn launched, RRA initially opened two over-the-counter return points – with support from TOMRA Cleanaway. The volumes of containers returned grew so rapidly that soon the organisation decided to scale up and open the automated depot.
“Returns had ramped up to nearly 10,000 containers per day at the over-the-counter sites before we went to the automated depot. With the automated depot, we average around 20,000 containers per day, and the biggest day we’ve seen so far was 54,000 containers returned,” says Matt.
“The community is really behind it, we’ve had a fabulous response since the start of the program. Even during Covid-19 restrictions we haven’t seen any reduction in container returns – we were able to implement safety measures and continue providing the service to the community,” he added.
The 20,000 containers returned daily equates to $2,000 each day going back into the community.
RRA has a focus on empowering people experiencing barriers to employment including creating meaningful employment opportunities and providing ongoing training and development.
“RRA has a host of wonderful employees with many different stories, from all walks of life,” says Matt. “One of our staff members – a single mother with three kids – came to us as a volunteer through the work for the dole scheme. She was very keen to find permanent employment and by tailoring her work hours around school hours, RRA has been able to benefit from her skills and dedication.”
“She’s is now a valued full-time employee and is a team leader, has her forklift licence, a test and tag licence and is a qualified health and safety representative. We are very proud of her and what she has achieved.” says Matt. “Funds raised through the automated depot create more employment opportunities for people in these types of situations.”
CEO of Exchange for Change Danielle Smalley stated “Resource Recovery Australia is another valuable way the community is benefitting from the Return and Earn scheme. Our scheme aims to support social enterprises such as Resource Recovery Australia, working together to shift public behaviour to reduce waste and recycle. This is another great example of how the containers redeemed through Return and Earn generate environmental, social, and economic benefits – ultimately creating a more sustainable future.”